Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) -- What is it?
Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving, or "COPPS," is a policing philosophy that promotes and supports organizational strategies to address the causes and reduce the fear of crime and social disorder through problem-solving tactics and community-police partnerships.
Community Policing brings police and citizens together to prevent crime and solve neighborhood problems. With Community Policing, the emphasis is on stopping crime before it happens, not responding to calls for service after the crime occurs. Community Policing gives citizens more control over the quality of life in their community. Community Policing means police become part of the neighborhood. This helps police get a better sense of residents’ needs and helps residents to develop greater trust in the police. In essence, the community joins the police department. Together, in partnership, the community and police department work together to achieve a common goal of a safer, better place to live and raise a family.
The Community Policing philosophy is constant, it doesn’t change from police department to police department or police officer to police officer, though how it gets done may change constantly. Community Policing has more to do with why we do things rather than what those things are.
Community Policing acknowledges that the whole community is responsible for public safety – not just the police. It rests on the belief that the police must become partners with the people in the community, so that together they can address local priorities related to crime, fear of crime, and social disorder. Police officers must become more involved with and aware of the characteristics and nuances of the communities they are policing. Police officers are encouraged to get to know the community, listen to their concerns and get them involved in problem-solving efforts. Enforcement tactics are not eliminated; rather, the selection of tools officers have to do their job is greatly expanded.
Community Policing requires shared ownership, decision making, and accountability, as well as sustained commitment from both the police and the community. It shifts the focus of police work from responding to individual incidents to addressing problems identified by the community as well as the police, emphasizing the use of problem solving approaches to supplement traditional law enforcement methods. The community must accept and share responsibility with the police for social order, and both must work cooperatively to identify problems and develop pro-active community-wide solutions.
It is important to stress that Community Policing is still law enforcement. It is not soft on crime – in fact, it is tougher on crime than traditional policing because it provides a more comprehensive, creative approach. Consulting the community focuses police activities more effectively; with community involvement, officers receive more information and are able to respond more effectively, either with arrests or other appropriate actions.
Community Policing acknowledges the importance of trusting officers and encourages them to move out of their patrol cars and into the community. Community Policing values talking with residents, business owners, children, and anyone officers encounter in the course of their work – just as much as it values making arrests or writing tickets. Putting cops back “on the beat” is the cornerstone of Community Policing. It makes for safer streets and improves the quality of life. Within his or her area (beat), a police officer works to:
Get to know people. Community Policing means officers get out of their patrol cars and onto the street. The police officer forms relationships with residents and business persons. He or she learns about people’s concerns and helps build trust between citizens and police.
Help solve neighborhood problems. Police officers do more than respond to crime. They also look for ways to prevent crime and improve the quality of life.
Put people in touch with other community service agencies. These may include agencies that can help with problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence in the home, or child abuse.
Police officers will enjoy many rewards Community Policing, including:
The opportunity to be creative. There aren’t always rules and regulations for solving various problems officers may encounter. They are often called upon to use their imagination to find new or unique solutions to old problems.
Help with solving and preventing crime. Forming partnerships with community members is a great advantage to police officers. Residents often have information that can help police identify problems and, when necessary, make arrests.
Community Policing expands the traditional role of the police officer. Officers are now teachers, mentors, and role models as well as law enforcers. In addition to their regular duties, they may also:
Work with community groups. This is a more formal way to get to know, and resolve, residents’ concerns and learn more about community problems.
Teach residents how to prevent crime. For example, police officers may talk about ways to safeguard your home, business, or vehicle. They may also talk to you about being more aware of dangerous situations and how to avoid them so that you will become a less likely target for crime.
Work with youth. Police officers may visit or actually be assigned to schools to teach anti-drug, anti-alcohol, anti-violence, or anti-gang curriculum. They also work with children at special community events.
Residents of any neighborhood may share many of the same concerns and fears. These may be issues of:
Safety. For example, residents may be concerned about drug use, vandalism, violent crime, or their children’s safety both in and out of school.
Noise. Unwanted noise can include loud music, automobiles, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, loud talking or arguments, barking dogs.
Neighborhood appearance. Problems may include graffiti, abandoned vehicles, run-down buildings or property, litter, overgrown vacant lots.
Traffic and parking problems. Some neighborhoods have so much traffic that travel is slow going and parking is difficult to find. Other neighborhoods may suffer from high speed commute traffic, where drivers are taking alternative routes to avoid congestion.
Community Policing makes citizens and police partners against crime. Here are a few advantages.
Better communication with police. Community Policing is based on the idea that police and the community have joined together as partners to reduce crime and to improve the quality of life. Citizens have a better opportunity to voice concerns and police are dedicated to listen to them.
Greater influence in setting police priorities. Residents assist police in deciding what the top goals should be. Residents also have a say in deciding how law enforcement resources should be spent.
Reduces fear. Community Policing breaks the cycle of deterioration and fear, allowing residents the ability to take back what they may have lost.
An improved quality of life. Working with police and with each other helps residents feel a sense of neighborhood pride.
A better understanding of what police do. Residents get a clearer idea of the pressures and challenges police deal with every day. This can help to improve relationships between residents and the police.
To control crime, resolve problems, and improve the quality of life, police and residents must be able to turn to public and private agencies for help. These agencies might include:
Other City departments. For example, Planning and Community Development, Public Works, and the Fire Department may cooperate with police and community members to clean up a particular neighborhood, and hold those responsible accountable. Neighborhood clean up discourages illegal activity and increases pride.
Community organizations. Help from the right people can really make Community Policing a success. Help can come from many areas including boards and commissions, service clubs and organizations, churches and religious organizations, schools, and the media.
Business Associations. An active business association can be a great asset for a community. Because their livelihood often depends on the health of the neighborhood, business people are often strongly motivated to help.
Don’t wait for someone else to take the lead. Everyone in the community shares the responsibility for making Community Policing work! There is a lot you can do. For example:
Get to know your neighbors. Community Policing works better when the community is united. One way to start is to knock on your neighbor’s doors and introduce yourself.
Hold community meetings. Get the word out on when and where the meetings will take place. Meetings can be a great opportunity to air concerns and agree on solutions. Encourage your neighbors to attend. Contact us and ask for a police representative to attend.
Join a Neighborhood Blockwatch group. It’s your neighborhood, help keep an eye on it. If there is not a Blockwatch group in your neighborhood, ask us how to start one.
Talk to your neighborhood beat officer. Get to know him or her by their first name. Report any suspicious activities. Pass along any information that could help the police prevent or solve a crime. Talk about your concerns, but don’t forget to show your support.
Community Policing can’t work without your help! Community Policing calls for teamwork between citizens and police. Crime prevention is an awesome task, the police are more effective when they can depend on residents’ help. Commitment from citizens, business owners, governmental agencies, elected officials, churches, schools, and other service organizations are all vital if Community Policing is to work. We look to all residents to help in solving community problems.